We call her Hope. Our baby, lost to us in late January 2003, was with us only briefly. Eight weeks to be exact. Not long enough to take her first breath, but long enough to be a reality in my heart. Long enough for me to imagine holding her in my arms. Long enough to visualize her face and imagine her personality. But, gone before any of those dreams could be realized this side of Heaven.
Though we never saw our baby, and science could not determine whether it was a boy or a girl, my husband and I have always known her name. It was written in our hearts through prayer and she is our daughter that Jesus taught to walk and whom we shall meet in eternity.
Our pregnancy started as any other with one exception. It was unexpected. Our other two children had been strategically planned, four years apart. This pregnancy, however, was a wonderful surprise.
Our middle child was just under a year old herself when we learned I was pregnant again. This new baby would be just 19 months younger than our daughter Lily. Clearly, the idea of having two babies in diapers was daunting at first. But, we embraced the challenge with the firm belief that “sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3 NIV) No doubt, there would be sleepless nights and an empty checkbook, but we rejoiced for our family had new life.
During the weeks that followed, I fell madly in love with our unborn child. I planned for her arrival and began to prepare our home for her presence. Yet, our joy passed quickly when we suddenly lost our child to miscarriage. With the dream of my baby now shattered, my heart was torn with her loss. Breathless and grieving, I felt numb and broken. In a word, I felt hopeless.
In the dark hours after our miscarriage, many friends tried to offer words of comfort. “It’s for the best.” “Nature knows what it is doing.” “You can try again.” Though their intentions were loving, my heart only ached more as these barbs of “comfort” struck my wounded spirit.
Our baby was gone. A piece of my heart was gone with her. And I knew I would never be the same. In the days that followed, I felt myself falling apart and I needed an escape. And I needed it fast! So we retreated to the solace of the home of a friend. A few years earlier, she too had suffered a miscarriage. Surely, I rationalized, she would understand the silence that I craved.
At first, my friend, Cindy, indeed gave me time. Alone with my thoughts, I sat for hours, in the dark, silent in my friend’s home office. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t breath. I just sat, bewildered and broken.
But after a while, God led Cindy to break my silence. Quietly, she walked into the room. She sat beside me, took my hand gently, and said words I will never forget… “It’s okay to be mad at God. He can take it. Tell Him how you really feel.” It was the first time any words had brought me any comfort since the nightmare began. I didn’t want to admit it, but she was right…I was angry! How could this happen? How could this be His plan?
For the first time, I opened up my broken heart to my God, as I sobbed with my sister in Christ, “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for.” (Job 6:8 NIV) Our baby was gone but my God was still on His throne. Hope remained in Him alone. Together, Christ, Marty, and, I stepped out of the darkness of loss and into the hope of tomorrow.
As God pieced together the fragments of our hearts, Marty and I returned to daily life granting Him full access to our suffering. Our pastor, at the time, suggested we name our baby to commorate her life. So, in prayer, we sought a name for our child, and God led us to hope. In quiet moments alone with God, He reminded Marty and I that, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see “(Hebrews 11:1 NIV)
Hope means believing in what we cannot tangibly grasp. And faith requires us to trust God with His promises. With hope, we let our grief fade into the shadows of yesterday, as the two of us waited for God’s restoration.
Forevermore in the arms of Jesus, our baby will be Hope because that is what she brought into our lives. For it was Hope that illuminated the place in our family for another baby. Before Hope came to us, we thought our family was complete. After all, it made perfect sense. We had a boy and a girl.
Statistically, we were the perfect modern American family of four. The perfect number to fit in a booth at our favorite restaurant. The best number for deals on vacations to Disney World. It was our plan and everything was in order. Everything made perfect sense. Yet, God in His great wisdom knew better. Losing Hope opened our hearts to the hidden desire for another baby and lit a dream in us both to try again. Just three months after tragically saying good-bye to our Hope, we learned we were expecting our youngest child, Sofie Faith.
She was born tiny, just under six pounds, but her spirit has always been large. Sofie is a strong, independent child with a fierce love for Jesus and a mind of her own. Witty and playful, Sofie brings life into the rooms of our home. And recently, Sofie accepted Christ at the tender age of six. I have no doubt that my daughter will be a powerful force for Jesus as she grows into a woman of faith.
She knows of Hope and draws beautiful pictures depicting the sibling she has yet to meet. Still, Marty and I remember that there wouldn’t be a Sofie if there hadn’t been Hope. For Sofie was the unseen promise linked to the loss of our Hope. Thoroughly, I am convinced that Hope came to bring us Sofie. She left us prematurely in our timing, but fulfilled her purpose in God’s kingdom. And in His love, our Heavenly Father took her home where we will all be united with Him. God gave us the gift of Hope.
Life can be painful. Tragedy strikes unexpectedly and fills us with anger and uncertainty during our weakness. But through it all, there is promise in God’s blessings of tomorrow. Blessings we have yet to discover. After all, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights ” (James 1:17 NIV) Indeed, we see his gifts best when we look with faith-filled eyes. Sometimes we just need a little time. Some prayer. And hope.
Heather Arbuckle 2011